by Jon Sanders
Research Editor and Senior Fellow, Regulatory Studies, John Locke Foundation
Even though beer and wine are readily available at grocery stores, convenience stores, specialty shops, even pharmacies and other places, and even on Sundays, there is an idea that loosening the ABC system’s tight control over liquor sales will unleash all kinds of alcohol-related crime and social upheaval in North Carolina.
But for the state controlling liquor like North Korea controls private property, the thinking goes, North Carolina would be in a “Mad Max” world of liquor-soaked chaos.
That’s nonsense. My report on modernizing the state’s ABC system looked into the issue and found that alcohol-based social and public-health problems aren’t linked to what kind of system a state used to sell liquor:
Social and public-health outcomes don’t depend on government control
On the issue of social and public-health repercussions from moving to a competitive system, a 2012 study by economists Michael LaFaive and Antony Davies looked at average annual alcohol-attributable deaths per 100,000 in each of the 50 states from 2001 to 2005. In their chart, 23 license states posted lower rates than did North Carolina.
A 2010 study by Davies and economist John Pulito examined the “numerous studies” on state liquor controls and found “no clear evidence that privatization of alcohol markets leads to either an increase or a decrease in underage drinking, underage binge drinking, or DUI fatalities. Studies showing a positive relationship … are counterbalanced by others showing an absent or ambiguous relationship.”
A 2009 study by Davies and Pulito found that “Evidence from 48 states over time shows no link between market controls and these social goals” of “reducing alcohol consumption, underage drinking, and alcohol-related traffic deaths.”
Economists Donald J. Boudreaux and Julia Williams also found no link in their 2010 report, writing that “The plain fact seems to be that alcohol-related problems are unrelated to whether or not a state government prevents private, competitive businesses from selling spirits to the general public.“